Speaking to a wide range of operators across the country and expecting to hear reports of a catastrophic January, with pubs looking like sets from a post apocalyptic future, devoid of life, I’ve been pleasantly, and cautiously surprised, to hear the opposite, on the whole.
The majority of operators I’ve spoken to have reported stronger than expected sales in January, with customers continuing to visit and spend well.
Of course, some of this might be the fact that we were expecting to see consumers shut down in January as the cost of living crisis bites, and maybe the expectations were so dire, any trade is looking good.
However, some have even reported stronger trade than in January 2019, the pre-covid benchmark that I suspect is going to be the one measured against for some time.
Does this give us some cause to hope that there might be a glimmer of hope on the horizon?
Good news stories are few and far between at the moment, and I hope that I’m not clutching at straws, but it felt more optimistic out in trade than I was expecting.
Of course this is all anecdotal and far from scientific, and I’m sure there will be some lambasting me for suggesting that things are anything other than horrific - I’m going against the narrative we should be presenting for support, but we also need to be realistic and reflect reality.
I’m not suggesting that we’ve turned a corner, or that the challenges aren’t still there, with more to come - but it’s worth noting that January hasn’t been the bloodbath many were expecting and I for one think that’s worth acknowledging and celebrating.
We’ve had too few reasons to smile of late, so let’s get them in while we can, and hope that fragile glimmer of hope can be crowbarred into something a bit bigger as we move into the Spring.